Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happiness Is...

A couple weeks ago my cousin mentioned in a passing text comment that I am now a MUCH happier version of myself than in recent past years.......and I'd have to agree. In some ways I hate to admit that moving on has seriously returned a smile to my face, a confidence to my stride, and less knots in my muscles, but it's incredibly true. Sure I cried my fair sure...and every once in a while I still do...but I promise you, I'm smiling much more than I have in a long, long time. Does that mean life is perfect? Ha, by no means....but it does mean that there is a LOT to be happy about...and there's something about having the freedom to be me again that just makes life feel lighter, happier, free.....

So what's happy inducing these days:

---Comfortable, organized homes. Every time I walk in the door...I LOVE my home. I love the pictures, the ethnic and earthy elements. The zebra rug. The thick stripes painted around the dining area. The throw blankets and pillows, the focus on the fireplaces, and the candles. Yup....LOVE it.

---Teaching about stuff I'm passionate about aka the last two weeks we cover chapters on infectious diseases (FASCINATING! and I get on my soapbox about antibacterial products), cancer (and I get on my soapbox about chemical/toxin exposures), relationships and SEX. Yup..."let's talk about sex, baby..."

---Argyle sweaters. And days of stripes. Say no more.

---Rehoming the chickens....yep, with mixed feelings they got rehomed today. Most responses I've had from a craigslist ad ever....and a gentle giant relocated them to North Portland. No joke....he was taller than Tall D and had the deep voice of a lil giant....nice guy....and now, no more early morning feedings and hopefully no more rats either.

---Birds flitting in the bushes outside the windows.

---Focusing on getting my finances in order, including suspending my regular monthly charity donations that I realized were only adding to the unfortunate debt on my credit card AND securing a housemate for the month of December.

---Grilled Banana Sandwich. Split it with a friend folks and thank me (& pinterest) later. A-MA-ZING!

---Driving the Sorento...seriously. I've never been so in love with a vehicle every.single.time I get behind the wheel.

---Sweating. Insanity. Running. These slow jogs I'm doing just to get mileage in...and always with a smile on my face as I'm smacking my gum. Feeling my core working.

---The dogs pre-run. Some days I'm not too keen on taking them, but they win me over every time...The minute they start to see running clothes going on, they're in my face, and serious Anna gets her excited grin and whimper going....who can say no to that?!

---The dogs at bedtime. Both hop up on the empty side...and I try to read or grade...and they will have none of that until they get their ample love and pet time.

---Cleaning with natural products. Today I brought the baking soda and vinegar back.

---Hearing my own opinion in my head first 85% of the time, rather than the doubts of another arriving first.

---Reconnecting with my version of how the world works and realigning my values on spiritual, family, social, communicative levels...and embracing many of the opportunities that exist should one go looking for them.

---Being a better friend & family member again...and all the great moments spent in enjoyment with individuals from those categories.

---Morning cups of coffee....and a carton of eggnog in the fridge to hit that evening sweet tooth spot.

---Fireplace fires.

---Spending an evening nose deep reading nerdy international health books for fun.

---Being creative. Being inspired.

---Seeing Christmas lights going up on houses.

---Fun text exchanges and Facetime conversations.

---New Girl episodes.

---Accomplishing goals and finishing projects: productivity.

---Major's announcement that he's arrived in the mornings and should be let in. (The cat sounds slightly like a bird...)

---A post-work out shower.

---Throwback songs on the Ipod.

---The ebb and flow of routine but flexible days.

---New experiences.

---Helping others...and moments when students disclose how much they're learning.

---Holiday decorations, smells, and peppermint flavor.

---Classes wrapping up for the holiday season.

Yup, much is bringing happiness these days folks. What are you happy about lately?!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Infantry Vs Morality

So many times I've wanted to write about aspects of our military life...but bit my tongue for various reasons: not wanting to break the spousal creed, not wanting to potentially deter Tall D's growth in the profession should this blog ever be linked to one of us, not wanting to potentially hinder my own path in providing services to the military, and not wanting to generally "go off" when at times I believe most stuff is situational.

But here's the deal folks, I was a spoiled kid, the daughter of an Air Force officer, who was a quiet leader and who from what I've been told didn't necessarily push himself to move up the ranks. My take on our experiences in that military of old are skewed because I was a young child (Dad retired when I was 9) and each branch of service has its own personality. I truly have no knowledge of whether Dad developed an ego in the service. I do know that his life was his job and while he was a good father, he wasn't around much for my older siblings. He always worked either Christmas or Eve and granted the young enlisted guys leave to go home to their families. It was hard to get him to take family vacations and when we did, we usually left behind schedule. We went to church on Sundays and I remember Mom & Dad dressing up glamorously for military balls. I also remember when my parents stopped drinking to set the example for my brothers and the young airmen in the department. Dad was never one to really lose his temper, but there are stories of him litting into an airman that he learned was a wife abuser. Dad never went to war, so in that respect his experience is totally different as well, but I do remember the difficulty of his transition out of the service. After wearing the same uniform and having the same routine for 20+ years, he suddenly was left with a massively reduced income, no idea what to wear each day, and lots of idle time (& two kids left in the home). Additionally his military job (a meteorologist) doesn't exactly translate into a job outside of the service where limited positions exist...and especially when Dad is an extremely quiet man. Watching Dad through his whole experience, left me better able to connect and relate to many of the service members I helped with their transitions during my job in Louisiana.

On the flip side of that experience, what I can tell you is that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to marry an enlisted infantryman, as that world is a completely different world of its own and I believed Tall D when he told me the type of man he wanted to be in this life (a man not unlike my father: a leader, a believer of God, a heart for the world, steadfast, compassionate, but with a lil more fun & beer drinking thrown in...and honestly, a man who had set my first task to help him apply to become an officer, although that didn't end up being able to happen). My ignorance withheld the truth that that type of man doesn't survive the enlisted infantry due to the culture of the institution. I should have known something was askew when my uncle scoffed that I was going to run off with an infantryman....

And here's where I'm going to slightly spout off, because I joke but I'm also dead serious that routine weekend beer pong was probably the first indication that my marriage would be doomed. The infantry culture is one that promotes the atmosphere, maturity, egotisticalness, and moral standards of a frat house. It's definitely understandable in some do you send men (& some women) off to combat, training them to kill others without much regard, and yet expect them to return home and act like the most upright of moral citizens? How do you deal with the realities of a job many love to hate AND hate to love but expect them not to want to drink, drug, smoke or sex away frustrations and sorrows? Especially in a culture that tends to see emotions and sharing as a sign of weakness? Where counseling still contains a massive stigma and where most will admit to some of the symptoms of PTSD & TBI, but its rare to have one openly admit that they actually will classify as having the diagnosis. And the reality is that those who don't conform to the behaviors of the set (or who attempt to uphold the truth of the situation) are usually hazed or thought of as the weaker set. I can't tell you the countless times I individually had a soldier share with me that they didn't like someone's choices or lifestyle behaviors or share with me what they really were struggling with, but rarely will one stand out against the grain to stand up for what they truly believe in or what they are going through. And this is an example of why: The one time I actually witnessed a soldier finally share a segment of a nighttime dream (PTSD related) that he'd been struggling with, the entire kitchen went quiet and his fellow soldiers all changed the subject and left him hanging. How do you break the cycle when the entire institution wants to live in denial? And what do you do when even leadership tends to turn their head until they have to deal with the more negative outcomes?

In reality, as negative of an influence that the infantry culture can be, it seems like the transition out of that culture is even harder on the soldier. One of the many things that the military has going for it is it's sense of camaraderie  The soldiers feel it when they work, sleep, party, etc with the same set of individuals day in and day out. They have to overlook any differences, because it doesn't matter when your life depends on the other in order to survive. The wives experience it also because generally most are going through the same thing. You understand that you're not the same individually, but you're going through the same experience and dealing with the same fears & concerns. I've never seen another setting that has the same sense of support, understanding, or camaraderie because it's rare that other occupations operate the same. Last year, in my veteran support job and in the conversations I had with several of Tall D's fellow veteran students, this need for camaraderie was continually brought to the table. And last year, I somehow attracted and developed a mini support group of about 12 diverse former soldiers from various service areas and branches, who were able to openly share their experiences, support each other, and find a similar type of camaraderie---that whole experience is limited however and only opens for those who are willing to seek it. Additionally, some veterans bond together in order to continue the moral chaos that existed while they were IN service, and I'm not so sure how well that benefits them in pursuing new goals outside of the service. The transition itself is usually a period of being lost and of needing assistance, but the soldier/veteran has to be willing to tap into the resources that exist.

There are other issues with the culture as well. It seems that many of the soldiers who choose or are put into the enlisted infantry ranks have had challenging pasts (Tall D tells me that this is historically the case as well), which might mean that the chaos that gets created in off hours is just a repetition of the life lived prior to joining the ranks. And generally speaking as individuals "mature" into adults, these same patterns exist due to the continuation of the infantry culture. Additionally, historically enlisted ranks have been paid at a rate that would allow for the survival of one individual (the soldier) and not for a family---in the past it was thought that the lower ranks would not have families (which isn't the case as much these days). Another major issue that I noticed while working in an office responsible for helping soldiers transition out of the service is that in times of downsizing, the military will cut individuals for various behavioral infractions that it is more than willing to overlook during other periods of need. Frequently these soldiers aren't granted the ample time needed in order to transition successfully. How do you prepare for separation, relocation, an identity shift, family needs, and create a new plan if you have just a few weeks (if that) until you're removed from your job? And if you have no family of origin to fall back on, then what do you do? And even for those who do have ample time to transition, why find a minimum wage job if unemployment pays you more than what you can find to do for a new job? Is it any wonder our veterans are struggling with employment, with sustaining, with accessing appropriate resources? (There's more to all this story, this is just a part of it.)

Honestly all this has been forefront on my brain for months (obviously, I lived and breathed veterans for an entire year both at home and at work last year). I'm not going to lie, I've been struggling the last few months not to be slightly disenfranchised with the whole infantry lot. Don't get me wrong, I most definitely appreciate the reality that these individuals face and the choice they make to put their lives on the line for each other and for the nation. What I'm not so thrilled with is the choices many of them make and the mentality that can be held outside of the job. Especially by those who want to head into leadership...and there's where part of all of this comes from lately. One of the fellow guys in our unit who was one of the lowest moral individuals I've ever met and who in a lot of ways Tall D started to be more and more like over time, has now announced that he wants to become an officer. Tall D and I have debated this announcement more than once in the last week, as he fully supports this choice (arguing that infantry officers need not be morally sound if they lead well in battle) and I am adamantly opposed to it (as I believe that officers are to LEAD by example both in combat and outside of work). I'm seriously so opposed that I wish I could write a letter against this individual's application packet. Why should we continue to put individuals into positions of leadership just because they're good in battle? And what makes a true leader? (Interestingly, my buddy I breakfasted with on Friday, also was enlisted infantry who became an officer...and who offered my same opinion when questioned on all of this.)

And here goes, the other reason all of this has been on my mind is because sometimes, I feel like an infantry wife/milspouse failure. I'm opposed to divorce. I'm opposed to milspouses who walk away from their soldier/veteran when the sol/vet needs her/him most. I remember adamantly telling my hesitant family that yes, there would be problems, but Tall D and I would see them through. And in reality my rose colored glasses blinded me from many of the truly underlying issues that did exist, until the reality was shared after it was basically too late. (Ironic that what we're good at professionally, isn't always what we're good at personally...isn't that the truth.) I recognize that not all of Tall D's and my problems stemmed from the military (as we obviously have fundamental differences in how we were raised and how we look at the world, plus our spiritual lives dwindled and I became that woman who banked my happiness on his happiness which only further made him unhappy because I was unhappy) and I recognize that I would tell any other milspouse that if he's not willing to get help or change his behaviors, then there isn't anything you can do but to move forward yourself.....but it still feels crappy to be doing it. I might be assertive and opinionated, but underneath, I've always been a caring and bleeding heart. While Tall D was never willing to tap into the resources as he had declared that he would, it doesn't mean that I've given up hope that he might and it doesn't mean that I'm willing to totally walk away from being his friend. Because as cheesy as it sounds, there's one infantry value that I do truly believe in...and that's the reality that you don't leave your buddies behind....

Disclaimer: I also must say that not EVERY infantryman is affected this way. And obviously from recent events (General Petrayus & others), every officer or individual (both inside and outside the military) has the potential to be morally corrupt as well. We all struggle, I get this. I wouldn't say that the beginning of my separation was the greatest show of my moral character either, I'm just as capable of having a 2X4 in my eye while pointing out the flaws of systems and others. And I don't know that the system can be fixed honestly, but I think it's a shame that it continues to exist as it does.

Updated after two hours of raking: The more I thought about it the more I realized that any choices that I still wonder at their morality or whether they were the best decisions I've made occurred while being surrounded by the military culture. Technically the choices were all within appropriate professional or societal guidelines these day but they definitely weren't the greatest representations of my values. And then I wondered why it might be that we're more likely to make those types of choices dependent upon the individuals we're routinely interacting with....Do we make questionable choices when our choices seem pale by comparison to those around us? And if that's the case....then that might explain a lot....and only furthers my belief that strong moral leadership is part of the key.

What do you think? What makes a leader? Is morality part of it? Or is that now an old-fashioned notion?

Random Rambles

Just a hodge podge of things floating around my head the last two days with some happenings thrown in:

---Apple crepes are delicious and breakfast has easily become my favorite meal of the day. Ironically it wasn't until I moved to Louisiana that I ever really ate breakfast on the regular. Two breakfast outings this long weekend was awesome, as on Saturday I grabbed breakfast with a house guest/mate of Tall D & the boys, who is going through his own divorce. Lots of time spent listening, getting in words where I saw fit, and just generally trying to support through the questions. I've been there, it sucks...

---The football game went well and we won! So the high school alma mater is heading to the state finals next weekend for the first time ever! So good to catch up with friends during the game, and I'm pretty sure that was one of the first social outings Tall D and I have had to make jointly albeit independently since the actual divorce and it went fine.

---Thick wool socks, leggings, and jogging tops make me happy these days.

---Speaking of jogging, the winter sunshine called me outside this afternoon and I covered 6.8 miles on my run. It felt pretty great, I had a smile on my face until the last mile, and the sunshine felt amazing on my bare legs. I also realized that it's hard to motivate myself out to run for anything under than 3-4 miles these days--even lately I keep feeling like it better be 4-7 miles or it's not worth it. While that's not much to some, that's a HUGE improvement to me! Oh and I'm pretty sure that I'm having some other issue that is effecting my running, but I'm not sure how to prevent it. Hmm..

---Church this morning. Again....AWESOME. And I want to drag every single one of my friends there. It just feeds my soul. The type of church that recognizes that no one is perfect and yet is all about giving, sharing, missions, caring. I don't agree with everything they practice, but so far, I have yet to walk out feeling like I disagree with anything and I always walk out feeling uplifted and fulfilled.

---I've been thinking a lot about my milspouse gals. How much they mean to me...and how difficult of a Christmas this will probably be for so many of us. Three husbands deployed, one husband lost his life in combat, one milspouse lost her mom to cancer, and Tall D and I divorced. My heart breaks for each of them and yet misses them and the reality that we all understand so much too.

---Speaking of milspouses, yesterday evening I had a long text chat with the wife of Tall D's best Army bud, as she and I became good pals too. It was good to be able to discuss some of the concerns that I have, the concerns that have been brought to me by others as well, to hear of her husband and her & the resources utilized, to gain a better understanding of certain aspects of things that don't get discussed, and to just check in in general. It also made me realize another aspect of failure that I struggle with....but I might post about that separately. I've been feeling a military post coming on lately.....

---The irony of 30 that I think I've shared before......I'm really starting to look my age ie my students don't question that I'm old enough to know and I'm rarely getting carded these days, but I've also never been in better shape or more toned. I think I've gotten more compliments from the Tall one in the last three months than in the three years of our living in the same residence, and the other evening my old buddy sent me a text speaking to that very fact that the "years had been good to me." I've been hearing this a lot lately and I'd have to agree, but I think it also makes me nervous to what the next five years might be.... plus I'm well aware that the minute I start eating more or with old habits.....some poundage is going to be added.

----On a related note: yesterday I treated myself to a peppermint smoothie from Burgerville and a fish fillet sandwich. I hadn't eaten since breakfast, the Dogs won the game, and so I treated myself to full fat...and it was worth every single bite :)

----Also, don't laugh, but I'd been realizing that something felt different about my body...and it finally dawned on me that this is the first time in my adult life that I haven't had some sort of love handle flab. I still feel the phantom love :) HA!

---Graded the final in-person assignments! Woot woot. Tomorrow I hope to conquer the online assignments/quizzes...and then courses are wrapping up!

---Today I broke the no-buy November in order to buy a few holiday decor items: a wreath and swag for outside, two poinsettas, and some scented pine cones for the table. I swapped out the gourds and changed up the candles, and Tall D also agreed to let my cousin, T, and I borrow the truck one afternoon later this week so we can go cut me down a Christmas tree--us ladies are pretty stoked :) (Plus T doesn't know it but she's going to be volunteered to crawl into the attic to get down the Christmas decorations) ;)

---This evening I had my meeting/interview with the short-term house share. It sounds like it might just be December with potential for a bit of January thrown in. I'm still deciding although leaning toward yes, just because I feel inclined to take the gal under my wing and help her out for a bit. (Although I keep hearing my aunt's advice: Stop being a caretaker for everyone else....and take care of yourself for once!) I keep waiting to figure out what the catch is with this gal but hopefully there is none. She'd move in on Saturday and the room would stay completely furnished--she'd basically just be staying almost like a paying guest. Potentially not a bad deal.....

---And tonight the dogs got baths. It was the first time Roxi has had a bath since we moved to Oregon maybe (although there might have been one outside). Anna's been to the groomer's twice, but since the dogs are outside as much as in, I usually hate the idea of bathing them just for them to get so dirty. Except tonight I realized that Roxi was into the bathtub she went, followed by Anna. Both dogs used to freak out when we'd bath them, so I was incredibly impressed that they both let me pick them up and generally tolerated the bath/shower as it happened.

---I've also had some more thoughts about Tall D in general, and the reality of knowing I shouldn't talk to him but the reality of knowing that I don't want to not talk to him. And that's not in a "I'm not over him" way, that's in that "wow, we shouldn't be married, what were we thinking, but gosh, I DO/Did enjoy lots of about him and I'd like to be able to offer him support as a friend" sort of way. Only time will tell how any friendship progresses, etc. I know that I do have it in me though to shut emotions off and push forward--I've done it with past loves before, especially in times when I'm embracing the year ahead to regain myself. I'm not looking to integrate ANYONE except for reacquainting with me. And ironically I have been realizing that I am returning to a lot of aspects of the version of me that I was right before I met TallD: back at church regularly, being more mindful of debts & finances, more settled in my soul & heart, more confident in my choices & actions, looking forward, a better friend & more engaged family member, and focused on my physical health for the right reasons (and not because I'm trying to keep him engaged).

---There's more...but I'm going to bed! :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Thoughts & Happenings

Yesterday started with a debate on whether or not to join my cousin and her hub for the communion service at the church we've been attending, but like usual, I'm glad I did. I mean, what better way to start Thanksgiving than to give thanks where thanks is most due, to receive communion, and to hear a great message. The elementary age gal in front of me was adorable and when I told her that I enjoyed the drawings she was creating, she gifted me with one--sweet, and that lil scrap of paper came in handy when I decided that the mini-sermon was so good that I needed to jot down the following messages:

1) Gratitude breeds generosity: The more we give, the more we tend to receive in the long run...and the more we lead others to create their own opportunities for generosity. Ex. the pastor was in the drive-thru line at Starbucks and let another car that arrived later go in front of him even though he didn't want to, when he arrived to the window, his drink had been paid for by the car in front of him...and he felt more desire to continue to be generous.

2) Lack of gratitude (ingratitude) feels like rejection: If you don't express appreciation, it doesn't exist. Ex. How often do we harbor resentment for the everyday tasks that people take for granted cause we feel they go unnoticed aka unappreciated. (working hard to pay the bills, cooking a meal from scratch, etc)

3) Generous hearts attract others.

4) If the emotion isn't expressed, then it doesn't appear to exist. (This one hit home in so many ways....)

There was also a bit of a lesson on the notion of humility vs entitlement--how frequently we feel that things are owed, when really we are owed nothing. And the notion of being a Returner: one who goes to share thanks to those who enabled them to move forward......

All this led me to spend the next 1.5 hours, trying to be a better returner even if people won't know it, as I went through my phone and half my facebook list and spent 30 secs to a couple minutes praying for every individual person, his or her partner, and any kids they might have. I prayed in gratitude for their presence in my life, for things I know they struggle with, and for ways I hope they might be blessed---all while acknowledging that God has His own plan for each one of them whether or not they know it. I sent a few text messages to many of the ones that weighed most on my heart, including one to Tall D, letting him know that regardless of everything, I do appreciate and am thankful for the good that we created together.

Being generous of spirit and being mindful of God's control over my life isn't always an easy place for me to get to, but I can tell you that this Thanksgiving I was more at peace, more accepting, and more settled than any of years passed. My expectations didn't matter--in fact I had none and I was more fulfilled and blown away by the course of the day. Definitely a reminder, as well, that starting my day with prayer has never had a negative effect on the rest of the day.
My contributions to the day's meal included a kale salad, rolls, vino, and a bacon flavored cheese ball with Ritz crackers (don't knock it til ya try it...and then you'll be addicted!!). I love that each member of the family contributes to the overall load and after the meal is over we all attempt to help with clean-up and break down.

This year my nearby aunt and uncle transported me across town where the meal was held. It was just my parents and I from my immediate family, as my Oregon siblings did their own things (hopefully they both had good meals and created great memories; operating independently of each other definitely isn't outside our norms), and there was a slightly smaller crowd in comparison to prior years (14 of us in total). It also was my cousin's 30th, so for the first year ever we had family games after dinner. I'm not gonna lie, usually I'm a bit of a stick in the mud about these things....BUT it was a total blast as we all participated in our Minute to win it teams to celebrate A and I loved being introduced later to Banana grams as well. The food was amazing, the vino flowed, A was celebrated, Granny appreciated, and time with family was relished. Altogether a quite incredible Thanksgiving.

I got home about 8pm and let the dogs in (noticing that their breaths had a faint hint of turkey that I'm assuming was probably gifted to them across the short back fence :)), before we settled in just relishing our evening of solitude together. (Although I did finally remember to write an email in support of my old high school buddy who is applying for legal residency in Canada--gonna be sad to have the US lose him, but man, is Canada gaining a great one!) One thing the holidays usually does is leave me quiet, introspective at times wanting to just be still in the presence of well, life lived. (One of my favorite Christmas annual traditions is to just spend time curled up on the couch next to the twinkling of the tree, nose deep in a book.) As much as I love the fulfillment of catching up with friends who come home for the holidays (something that recently dawned on me and has increased my excitement about Christmas), spending quality time with my parents and other family members, the holidays also tend to make me relish and desire more moments of solitude.

I crawled into bed early-ish with every intention of just reading but instead rehashed separate holidays of awesomeness with the Tall one across the distance. While we never could quite figure out how to make it work as spouses, I do hope that in time we're able to create a new relationship based upon our married years of friendship. And in many ways it was nice to touch base with the one who has been my primary confidant and best friend, especially when so much of our hometown, friends, and recent traditions are so incredibly entwined. The trick will be to ensure that emotional boundaries are maintained and continued space is ingrained.
Continuing with what I think of as the Thanksgiving weekend, I met up with another old buddy of mine from my undergrad years for breakfast this morning. A guy who I seriously used to enjoy, who taught me to use chopsticks, exposed me to more of the arts, and was the first infantry guy I'd ever spent much time with. Mom loved him, he let me hip toss him in the shared quad, and he was my buddy J's roommate our freshman year of college. (The irony of a small town: My best gal Deir and her husband J and I all went to high school together, although I was a year ahead. J and I went to college together, and D&J got married after our freshman year. Thus J and I have similar college friends and also high school friends, and as mentioned, J & Tall D also share a hometown best friend B...and B's in-laws are who Tall D considers to be his family..... Confused yet?! HA!)

Anyway old college buddy and I haven't seen each other since 2008, when he was on a hiatus from his now ex-wife and he was recently out of the Army. We are both still in touch with another shared buddy though, so I've heard updates on him throughout the years and vice versa. Since we're both recently divorced and back in the area, we figured it'd be awesome to try to reconnect and redevelop a new version of the old friendship we both enjoyed.

On the way to breakfast this morning I was thinking about all the fun times we used to have, but I also was reminding myself that we all grow and change. Sometimes there's nothing more frustrating when getting together with old friends and they expect you to still be the same version they knew originally, so I kept that forefront in my mind as we dove into conversation. And what a great catch-up it was, especially with shared friends, college, and military insight...and in some ways similar marriage and divorce experiences---the hour flew by fast and we left both promising to reconnect over breakfast again soon. Definitely thankful for catching up with an old friend!
Now I'm off to trudge through the rain on a run, to hopefully spend some moments grading, and then to relish an evening spent being perfectly content and lazy. Tomorrow I'm to connect with another new person at some point and then I'm uber stoked to go watch my high school football team compete in the semi-finals with a bunch of Tall D's "fam" who are also my friends. Love those moments when our hometown friends are forced to venture up to the city...and hopefully we'll watch the team win! Regardless, it's the first time they've ever made it to the semi-finals. Sunday will include a morning of church and a stop-by/interview from a potential short-term house share in the evening. Woot woot--so thankful for peaceful, lazy, fulfilling weekends full of individual little moments!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Midnight Thanksgiving Gratitudes

Throughout the duration of the month, I've been posting at least once each day (on FB) the things/events/etc of which I'm thankful, but in reality if I posted as many items as the ones that cross my mind day in and day out, I think I'd drive people a little batty.

Here are the ones I've posted thus far:

Nov 1: Today I'm thankful for a little thing that has big outcomes: Health Insurance...and my first trip to the dentist in several years--woot woot!

Day 2: healthy coping strategies---blueberry smoothies, books to challenge thinking, happy hour with my cousin, running in the rain, and extra sleep!!

Day 3: IPhone5 converts talking into written emails. For a verbal processor... life is REVOLUTIONIZED!!!!! Grateful for small joys & feeling like a kid on Xmas! :)

Day 4: for TIME. Time to think, process, dream, and hope. Time to worry, pray, plan, and recharge. Time with loved ones. Time shared in support & encouragement of others. Time to create memories & learn new things. TIME

Nov 5: two beautiful, crazy, demanding, expressive companionable fur friends. They're great running/hiking partners & equally loving and protective daily. I wasn't a dog lover but Im so glad these two ladies wormed their way so strongly into my life!

#5.2: the beauty of unlocked FB profiles and google makes running searches on potential housemates that much easier! :)

#6: this year I didn't want to vote and it's been a hassle trying to turn my ballot in. BUT I'm grateful for the right to CHOOSE to participate in the process--a right that so many others across the world don't have. AND I'm grateful that praying for the president is free, easy, & widely accepted

Nov 7: the beauty of fall leaves. Their vivid colors. The carpet they create under trees. The joy of kicking thru them and the natural exercise from raking them. Gorgeous!

Nov 8: celebration of birthdays. Happy birthday to one of the most phenomenal ladies I know back home and to the man who has had my sister's heart for over twenty years! Happy, happy birthday Bob & Kristi!

Nov 9: Granny. For all the sputtering, sports lessons, companionship, "ribbing," & laughter. A woman so hardy, so determined, so full of life & fun, so willing to uphold the right path & yet also push the envelope, so intelligent who still everyday "put her face on," so stubborn yet so kind---I cant count the ways this special lady has formed & taught me over the last 9 years. They just don't make 'em quite of the same variety anymore!!!

Nov 10: Grateful to wake up to this view after a night of chatting & vino w/ 3 great gals.

Nov 11: most thankful for sermons that provide answers I've been looking for and for worshiping with so many other believers!!!! "Have you invested to your fullest the skills, abilities, & talents God gave you? Never to young or old to do so."

#12: Major. His quirky cat personality..and his prey catching abilities.

13: Thankful for Dad--a believer of walking his talk by serving: 20+ yrs military, as an incredible parent, at the church, & via his daily actions. He taught me to swing a bat, swim laps, use a hammer, mow the lawn, caulk the tub, to drive, to love unconditionally, & so much more. He supports me in all decisions and reminds me to be kinder. There are not enough words to express how phenomenally I was blessed!!

14: Grateful for fulfilling morning wake-ups...and those first satisfying sips of coffee!

14.2: appreciative that in response to my "hi" greeting during my sweaty afternoon run with the dogs, the old man responded with "you're beautiful"...why thank you!!

Nov 15: grateful to reflect on Poppa, who passed in 2003. Always a twinkle in his eye, a man full of wisdom, and who believed strongly in education. The biggest humanitarian I've met and yet also a traditionalist-- all based in his theology. A builder with vivid dreams, yet who worried so we didn't have to ;) Never napped--just "rested his eyes." Full of unconditional love and the utmost belief in the beauty of nature & his family.

15.2: SO thankful for a wonderful visit today with my baby cousin and her great husband who finished his first deployment. SO incredibly proud of these two and fortunate to have spent a couple hours catching up!

16: thankful (& surprised) I actually demonstrated 2 traits I struggle with: patience & arriving on time! (Esp when the new google maps feature incl a direction of flipping a B in the middle of Ross Island bridge--ha, haha!) :)

Nov 17: Thankful that every day has the potential to be a new day..and that 2012 is almost over.

17.2: I have no qualms with saying it: thank God for amazing therapists. My entire day just got lifted.

#18: grateful for Mom, who taught me to enjoy the spoken word and relish the written ones. A lady who demonstrated following your passion & that you can go to school at any age, who put her heart into her job She marches to her own drummer, reaches out to more people than you could imagine, and knows how to sweep dissatisfaction under the rug. Her role model pushed me to be a better milspouse and to pursue careers that I love. 

#19: Incredibly thankful for tuition waivers that are going to grant me TEN free credits---woot woot!

19.2: oddly... thankful for my friends & family that have pet allergies, as it ensures my house gets defurred and cleaned at least once a week!!
19.3: VERY thankful for happy hour, for weather that reminds me of home, and the fact that skinny jeans & tall boots makes one avoid that Oregon soaked jean look. ;)

#20: thankful for my ol hometown dudes who continue to make me smile 11-16 years later. (more to this but that's the gist)

#21: incredibly thankful for a rewarding job I love and the most amazing supervisor!

....and now we're to Thanksgiving. I intend to keep going until the end of the month of November, but I have to say....being continuously mindful of my gratitudes has done wonders...and it keeps me looking for the positives out of life...which is a good way to be. Sure I've still had rough moments, hours, days thrown in...but I've also been feeling the reality of just how fortunate of a life I have lived and have yet to live.

Some of the others things crossing my mind that I haven't yet mentioned and others that I thought of but just didn't post as statuses:

---My three incredibly different older siblings and the determination and traits each one of them has shown me via their lives. And my gal Deir, who pretty much is another sister to me.
---My gal pals in Portland, my high school best ladies, my milspouses, and my gals spread out across the states.
---V8: 2 servings of veggies in 70 calories
---My extended family relationships, especially the continual support that exudes from my nearby aunt.
---A warm, full home that more than meets my needs....and the reality that I can probably maintain it.
---The ability to heat my house, have a vehicle to drive, clothes to wear, and have food in my cupboards.
---My health: the strength that has increased over the last several months across many aspects of health--physically, socially, spirituality.
---Running: finally being able to go farther than I've ever gone.
---The flavor of sticks, in coffee creamer, in Starbucks lattes, in ice cream...etc.
---Living in a nation that while conflicted, still grants me access and opportunity unlike many others.
---The willingness of individuals to serve each other and/or the nation via the military, volunteering, the line of work, and other venues.
---Check in text messages from friends near and far.
---Tonight's text debate with Tall D regarding the (cough cough) moral standards of the infantry and what it means to be an officer/leader (this should be a post in itself.....), but the debate was solid, gave me food for thought while also validating many of my previously held opinions.
---Thankful that Tall D has been able to spend the week with his "fam" and that while emotions are still high at times and space SHOULD be imposed, it's still nice to check-in with each other about life.
---For the Sorento and the joy it's brought me to drive it over the last year....especially in the moments of having two dog heads showing up in my rearview mirror.
---Lazy days spent lounging and grading in bed.
---That my homeless student found short-term housing and will be pursuing the rest of his degree next term.
---Flannel sheets and plump pillows.
---Time shared over meals and drink with family & friends.
---"Family" overseas.
---Access to education, doctors, social support.

I could go on and on because the list of items to appreciate is never ending. Incredibly grateful for what I (and we as a collective whole) do have. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Lil Bit of Life 4

Randoms are what I've got floating in my head, especially since I've been having trouble falling asleep the last few nights. Once I do fall asleep, all is well, it's just taking a hour or so to get there.

--Have I mentioned how much I love my boss? Seriously, I have been incredibly blessed. He'd sent me an email yesterday to discuss scheduling spring and summer terms, and since I had to run to campus today, I stopped in to chit chat for a bit. We caught up briefly and he shared his excitement about my registering for classes (he's been a HUGE supporter through everything already). Here is where I should also again mention that...I love my job. Sure it's not all roses and candy, grading gets tiring, teaching life skills to college students get tiring, but it's so incredibly rewarding too. There's nothing more fulfilling than seeing a student who engages with the material, hearing students share what they're changing in their lives to improve their health, or getting that "one" student to engage who normally just wouldn't care. And what other job can I seriously wheel and deal with my boss to finagle optimum credit loads, timing, and financial pay offs. I've set my own teaching schedule for over a year now...and it's amazing. It doesn't always work out, but the boss loves that I'm also flexible.....and I just plain love the job and how incredibly amazing my supervisor is.

--I'm becoming a dog owner push over. Tonight they got ahold of my decorative gourds and I just shook my head, loaded them into the Sorento to run an errand together, and then let them take over the other side of the bed. I'm a push over....Enough said.

--I absolutely hate why my best gal Deir and her lil one will be home for the holidays/next several months, but I'm also guiltily glad for it, as I can't imagine getting through the Christmas season at home without her this year. She's already promised a night of wine and crashing out at the farm house, which is exactly what might be needed. And I would imagine she's going to need it too. I'll definitely be thinking of all my milspouse gals this holiday season.

--I'm already slightly anxious about Christmas. Thanksgiving will go fairly smoothly I think, although I'm sure the fam will miss Tall D's deep fried turkey. I know I'll get emotional as we get closer to the actual sparkle and coziness of the Christmas season---the last three Christmases were spent with Tall D (2 of them completely on our own and most of the Christmas stuff we do own was stuff we'd actually picked out together) and the Christmas before those three was when he and I met back home. The hardest part will be heading back down to our hometown, where we share mutual friends and memories of the holidays...and yet I'll be back to trying to just do my own thing and praying to God that I don't run into him out with somebody else. One of the things I struggle with the most these days is knowing how quickly he's been able to move on, even if I also know that he's not the man I want to be married to.

--This weather is totally cramping my running. My legs and body are itching to go out, but the stronger winds and constant drizzle have been holding me back. Hopefully I'll force myself out into the elements this weekend, especially with Deir increasingly putting pressure on the half training program from the distance-ha!

--This week I've been cutting my classes about 45 mins early--giving them a bit of a break. Fall term has 12 weeks in it, while the other two terms only have 11---makes me feel like a shorter day during a holiday week is justifiable. They also turn(ed) in their last assignment this week---which means that this weekend will be the last time I have to grade for my in-person courses until the final. The next two lectures are some of my favorites: Infectious Disease & Cancer and then Relationships & Sex. I got all amped up tonight just starting to touch on the topic of contraceptives--at least the last two weeks they definitely pay attention, both from the subject matter and my own excitement with teaching it.

--I've been connecting with some new/old people who are also going through or recently divorced. It's sort of nice to have experiences/emotions be normalized. Tonight I also was thinking of how one of the most difficult things that people have said to me throughout all of this has actually been "to be strong" or to "remember that I'm strong," because sometimes being a strong female is tiring and you just want to have it actually be okay to cry when life gets crappy. Ironically one of the best things has been to be heard...and then be told to pull it back together...but that's just me :) (Perfect example: this afternoon Deir and I engaged in a long text exchange about multiple things but after letting me wallow and complain, she eventually stated "pity party over." She still let me go on about a few more things, but it did the trick....) Strength to me is NOT stuffing or hiding your emotions, but it's letting the process unfold while still being mindful of the experience and the fact that it won't last forever. We all carry on if we choose to, strength is getting to the point where you recognize that you've walked through yet another fire but the callouses on your feet only made you better able to handle the gravel path ahead of you. The fire still burns, it makes you more vulnerable, but it also makes you more aware and tougher.

--After class tonight, I purchased groceries--none of which really made too much sense. I got the regulars: veggies for snacking, coconut milk, bananas, wine. I got some treats: veggie chips, rice pudding, hard apple cider, and low-fat egg nog (which I totally broke into the carton the minute I hit the car). I got my goods to take to Thanksgiving: rolls, vino, kale salad fixings, and appetizer makings. And I got quite a few other things that I've been meaning to pick up over the last several weeks: cheese, bacon (btw can I freeze bacon?!), lil oranges, frozen pizzas, onions, avocados, and the like. I'm definitely looking forward to lots of good food on Thursday.

--We've had some pretty heavy rains and wind the last few days. Reminds me of home...but I definitely wish that Oregon drivers would remember to turn their headlights on during these gray drizzly moments! And with large puddles and blocked drains in some areas, I've again been relishing the AWD handling capabilities. I never thought I'd be one to fall in love with a vehicle (especially a crossover)....but I'm pretty sure I've been completely smitten for the last year. :)

--New contact for short term room rental. We'll see how it pans out. And today I ran into the younger corner neighbors Tall D and I had tried to befriend (actually Roxi ran over there when she saw the wife outside and refused to come back til I headed there too.....). It was good to touch base with the wife for a bit as I'd always enjoyed her and she was shocked to hear of the changes. Made me glad in some ways to know that the entire neighborhood didn't notice the transition. I also talked to the mailman about how to no longer have the remains of Tall D's mail arrive here...

--This whole no buying November is actually making me happy. Although I did fit into the "food" category some things that technically were gifts. Some extended colleagues from last year (same population, slightly different role), got hit with some major red tape extensions from the feds during their audit this summer, as you can imagine their office is a little stressed and over-taxed. Today I picked up a veggie tray, trail mix, and some holiday cupcakes to deliver to hopefully brighten their days. Sometimes there is nothing like showing others you care in order to be brighter!

And for now, that's that. I'm tired---I keep catching typos and grammatical errors. But in the midst of some moments of angst as of late, I'm still incredibly thankful...and recognize how many blessings exist.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fall Goal Review Wrap-Up

So lately I've had a few conversations with a couple of friends about goal-setting...and while I'll totally admit that I'm probably slightly overboard with goals these days, I also readily admit that they're part of what keeps me moving forward. Goals give me something to focus on, keep me pushing myself in new ways, and have the potential to motivate me into action on the days when I'm feeling unmotivated. I also recognize that goals are constantly evolving however and so even for my seasonal goals, I'm constantly editing/adding/changing things to better meet where I am and where I want to head. Plus I'm not going to lie, listing them on the blog (especially writing down whether or not I'm working out) definitely makes me more apt to get them done.

So what's gotten done in the last few months?

--Learned a bit more about football from my family & one of my students actually gave me a cheat sheet of hand signals ;) Watched the PSU Vikings with T, went to the Winterhawks game with T, a buddy/coworker, & his lady, and this last week, T, her man, & I went to the Eric Church concert.

--I've spent the last few weeks getting my knee back up to par and have kept up with mileage/work-outs. I also completed the Run Like Hell 10k and still intend to make my half-marathon goal this year. I made two trips to the beach--one long weekend to my parent's and then the overnighter with the book club gals last weekend, and I got better about seeing/calling Granny, even though half the time she was gone! While she was in the hospital though, I made sure to see her every day.

--Raked, ripped out bushes, put the raised beds to rest, and attempted to reseed the grass (again). Dealt with chickens, got rid of short-term ant infestation, and handled the rat issue fairly well.
--Realized that I can't do anything about the Asian pear/ripping out of bushes on my own, so will wait til spring to take care of those. Also can't do the cedar chips without truck assistance.
--Brother came up and we moved furniture around, he sawed boards, and hung items for me.
--House was remade into MY home: reorganized and rearranged, Tall D's stuff completely moved out of house (except his guns) and some of his stuff from garage was relocated, pictures redone, front room turned into an office, and small decor upgrades happened.
--Pinterest inspired signs are made, still just selecting what to paint on them before hanging.

--Divorce finalized, quicker than I thought I'd be ready...and faster via the courts than expected.
--Turned down full-time job option and didn't get other jobs I'd wanted. Still searching options but returning to school might be the new direction (more on this below).
--Regularly attending church and getting something out of each Sunday. Not praying every day like I should, but still turning more toward pray than during the last several years....and still trusting that God is heading me in a new direction.
--Dropped off donations at Goodwill, passed on clothes to a coworker/friend, and still have automatic deductions for the charities I contribute to. Book club discussed finding an organization to volunteer with each quarter--looking forward to this happening.
--Debt--hohum. Well, if I go back to school, then those massive student loans aren't going to get smaller, but at this point I think I'm okay with this. Divorce oriented credit card still is in existence, but once my ring sells that will be applied to a chunk of the overall bill. Still sucking up the rent payment on my own (hemming & hawing about the room rental)....and trusting that all bills will get covered. Next term more income will come in, so it's partly just making it through this one. And no-buy November has held strong thus far---no new clothes nor kitchen/home decor items, just food, some social outings, and gas for the Sorento. Continuing to attempt to be satisfied with the abundance of which I already have.
--Counseling--still loving it and by the time each session rolls around, I'm needing it too. She's great to just roll my thoughts off of and while I'd done fairly well for the last few weeks, I'd lost it for the duration of Friday evening before Saturday's session due to feeling like I hadn't been enough in my marriage. She did a great job of making me see the holes in my thinking and to realize that what wasn't "enough" was due to his issues, not mine, and that there's nothing I could have done to have made the marriage be any more or any less than what it was. She also has me using a cognitive retraining strategy for when these negative self-talk episodes come on--we'll see if it works! Additionally, it was nice to bounce ideas off of her about going back to school (since I have reservations and while my family is supportive not all of my friends have been enthused with this idea), and to hear her support of my continuing to use this next year as a period of regrowth and exploration. Additionally we also broached conversation about the reality that I've been missing having legit male friends, which was something that sort of went by the wayside due to Tall D's wishes. I've always had lots of dude friends and have enjoyed the balance they allow from my female friends, but at this age it can be difficult to initiate those friendships without potential for one to interpret the wrong intention. However, I hit up one of my lifelong old buddies about this last night, and he gave me some great suggestions to put into practice.

Two additional goals that I deleted were going shooting and a fall fishing outing, because I knew that neither was going to happen.

--At this point, I'm not so sure that Africa will happen, although I'm not giving up hope just yet. I also didn't book the ticket to spend Christmas in Argentina, as I'm not willing to increase my credit card debt that much in order to fulfill a life goal at this point. Again, returning to Argentina WILL happen---it just might not happen this year...and that also means I'm going to have to face the holidays back home...which I'm not overly looking forward to either.
--T and I plan on another kayaking outing...if the weather cooperates. :) And I'm delaying surfing lessons until the weather cooperates--haha. (Although I did just meet a new surfer at an orientation on Friday.)
--New direction: well, ya heard it, I'm currently enrolled to take 200-level Bio & Chem in Winter term. I've enrolled in one online class w/ an inperson lab and at another campus for the other course/lab in order to (hopefully) decrease my chances of being a classmate to my own students (something else we talked about in the counseling session). FAFSA is in, tuition waiver has been processed, and instructor pre-req overrides were granted to allow my registration. I've also been exploring options of medical careers that MIGHT fit best should I actually decide to go this route (I have two years of pre-reqs to either disqualify me or talk me out of it)...and on Friday I attended an initial exploration day at the local naturopathic college. I plan on visiting Bastyr up in Seattle also (plus they have more programs of study that interest me)...and I hope to do some informational interviews with local naturopaths. I'm also looking into a visitation day to Linfield for their accelerated nursing program. Other potential areas: nutrition/dietetics, certs for moms education courses/doula/breastfeeding. We'll see how this first term goes though, if it's a total struggle, then I'll head in a new direction....unless of course, dream job falls in my lap.

Since we're just about to move from Fall into (what I think of as) Winter and since I've just about accomplished the goals that I CAN get done at this point, I'm starting to think about goals for the next several months.

A few things on my mind: obviously continuing to work-out (even if this just transitions to 60 days of Insanity inside during the rainy season) but I really need to focus on cooking/eating. Tall D was the cook in the house and I'm horrible about not recognizing I'm hungry or need to eat until way late in the game when I live by myself. Thus I need to formulate a goal to ensure I'm eating enough and that nutritionally it's good food, especially on days where I'm burning lots of calories. Obviously I need to continue exploring new direction options: informational interviews and visiting programs. I need to decide whether or not to rent the spare room out for real, even if just to pay down the credit card, and whether or not I'm going to get rid of the chickens. And I really need to focus on making sure that I'm devoting love & attention on my biggest two furry companions (especially since their faces have been in my lap at least 4-5x since I started writing this posting). In an ideal world, I'd like to continue expanding my social network (which I'm already in the process of doing) and ensuring that I'm getting out and about each week. I need to keep going to church and it'd be a great idea to set a goal of reading some books based in my spirituality each month. I'll need to set up a routine starting in January: for school, for work, and for visiting Granny (as she'll have transitioned up here by then). And I need to just plain make it through the holidays--enjoying the moments that I can and recognizing the moments that are harder.

What are you thinking of for goals for the next few months?!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lecture Coverage

Tuesday Lecture:
(dress: Thifted; belt & cardigan: Target; boots: Penney's)

Wednesday Lecture:
(dress, cardigan, flats: Target; belt: from a different dress)

Interestingly, I didn't realize until now just how similar these outfits were nor did I remember that I'd worn the same cardigan the night before. (Although it did dawn on me yesterday that this cardigan is becoming a go-to piece.) The dress in the bottom picture is one I actually bought on clearance last winter but have yet to wear because even though the length is to my knee, the slit in the back makes me nervous!

....and this is a "younger," attractive (and now single) female instructor, I make an effort to ensure that I am always covered, ie no cleavage, skirts long enough, etc. The downside is that I also tend to overheat when I instruct because a) I always have a ton of adrenaline coursing thru my body and b) I also tend to be a pacer when I teach, ie I move around a lot. Thus I try to balance professional coverage with enough air flow to keep me from sweating too extreme! The other downside is that the best way to dress my body also usually highlights two of my assets, ie I have nice legs and large breasts, thus almost regardless of what I wear my legs and breast size are obvious. Problem ensues: I teach at a community college where the average age of the student is 27 (and last year I worked primarily with male veteran students about my age....). Thus each term I've received at least one inappropriate email sent by a (male) student regarding extra "interest" in the course that I'm teaching. While these emails could be seen as complimentary, I also find them wildly inappropriate (and always make sure to let the student know they are indeed inappropriate and unprofessional), especially when I really do take the time to ensure that most my work outfits are professional and appropriate. Even in my personal life, I'm frequently told that I choose modesty over exposure, so it's frustrating when these emails happen. 

Thoughts? Suggestions? Should I just start wearing a garbage sack? Or just "reframe" the interest to be complimentary and continue to deal with the emails in an appropriate/professional fashion?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stress Prevention & Management

Hiya! So for once I thought I'd do a useful, educational post! :)

I've been engaging in several conversations lately about stress: what it is, how to prevent it, and how to manage it, and while a lot of this is information we all already know, I thought I'd just post some little reminders of some great coping strategies we all can practice.

As we all know, the acute stress response is a good thing, but chronic stress can be detrimental for a host of reasons---it sends our emotions into a spin, it makes us more tired and distracted, and it impacts us on a physical level in so many negative ways. Physically the extra cortisol can increase pounds, our skin can break out, our muscles remain tensed, our systems are overtaxed and hyperaware, and of course one of those systems is the immune system, which means we're much more likely to get sick. While chronically stressed, our bodies might start to show responses we've never seen before or to shut down in other ways.

Ironically prevention and management can go hand-in hand, via a large listing of healthy coping strategies. The more you practice a coping strategy for prevention, the less likely for the stress to continue to manifest itself as chronically. If you do feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by stress, the more able you are to regulate the stress response, the better off you'll be in the long run.

So what are some coping strategies? Well a lot of these are common sense, but frequently we get so caught up in the stress of our lives that we forget to put into practice some of the basic tenements of healthy living and those tenements exist for a reason (they allow us to live healthy, fuller, less stressed lives!).

1) Eat a balanced diet. Yup, common sense, but how often when we're stressed do we reach for french fries, caffeine, or ice cream to make us feel better? And frequently when we're stressed, we're not thinking about the fuel we're putting into our bodies in the form of food--instead we're focused on trying to get through whatever is stressing us out. Biologically on an ancestoral level, there are reasons our bodies crave fatty, salty, sugary foods when we're stressed out but the reality is that these days we get enough of those categories just in our regular diets. Extra salt, sugar, & fatty foods just taxes our systems and decreases our chances of eating what we truly need: complex carbs, fruits & veggies, protein, etc. Additionally what we don't always get enough of are the proper vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to restore, only further compromising our systems. A note on caffeine: caffeine in our bodies mimics the stress response, so limit that intake and increase the water intake. Your body could probably use more true hydration to energize, flush out your system, and increase biological functioning. Also ONE glass of wine or beer a day can be relaxing and stress reducing, overuse of alcohol has the contradictory effect however.

2) Exercise. The more stressed we are the less likely we are to want to take time to engage in physical activity, but we need to. Exercise allows us to blow of steam and has so many protective factors for our bodies. It allows us to sleep better, our systems to function smoother, gives us time to process, and also grants MORE energy in the long run. But the other perk to exercise is that it actually puts our body through the same physical motions of the stress response but allows the cycle to complete itself. Additionally some certain types of exercise have been found to be coping strategies themselves, such as yoga and tai chi.

3) Sleep. So many of us don't get enough of it, but it's necessary for us to function well and it taxes all aspects of our health & lives when we don't get enough of it. Sleep debt cannot be made up on the weekends, thus it's necessary for us to be engaging in a regular healthy amount of sleep each night (6-9 hours of sleep a night for most adults). During sleep, our bodies restore and repair, our minds and emotions process and store, and our systems change their energy use patterns and needs. Not getting enough sleep by itself can create stress for most of us and only further propels us toward the stress response to life's normal daily occurrences.

4) Cognitive reframing, ie reframe your stressor. Is that stress really a big deal? Is there a way to think about it differently in order to recognize that there might be benefits to that experience? Is it possible to even just have a neutral reaction rather than think it's the end of the world or a horrible process? This is a challenge for most of us to do and it requires daily practice, but the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. An example of this might be the process of raking leaves or doing yardwork---frequently we might think of these activities as a chore or one more thing that needs to be done. In reality, engaging in raking leaves allows us to engage in physical exercise, we take time to notice the seasons, we utilize our senses, we breath deeply, and we feel a sense of accomplishment when we finish. If we think about the positives of an activity, rather than the negatives, the activity is more enjoyable and is less likely to be considered a stressor. We've out-thought the stress in a sense.

5) Resource management:
Time: We live in a society that is all about time. The more you understand where your time is actually going and potentially reallocate resources, the more apt you are to make stress reducing improvements. Are there areas where you waste time---could that time be better spent somewhere else? Maybe you're stretched too thin at work---record where time is going and have a conversation with the boss. Many of us also like to have a sense of control---having a plan for the week/month/year ahead can help with this process, although that being said stress can also arise due to the unexpected: BE FLEXIBLE. "Plan for the worst, hope for the best"
Money: Do we ever feel like we have enough of it? Have you ever monitored your finances to see exactly where your money is going each month? Are there ways you could cut back in some categories in order to increase savings or to pay off debts quicker? Are there areas where you spend on lots of WANTS rather than NEEDS? Debt and financial emergencies are huge stressors. Getting to a point where debts are paid down and there's a safety cushion can greatly reduce stress. Tracking funding can also let us see where our emotions are impacting our spending rather than meeting our needs.

6) Relaxation techniques: I won't go into all of these, but some might be:
Massage (either paid, self, or what we call 5-for-5 (I'll massage your for five in exchange for five))
Deep breathing exercises & Visualization
Meditation/Mindfulness (just even stop to notice the beauty that surrounds you)
PRM: Progressive Muscular Relaxation
Water therapy: Take a relaxing bath/soak in a hot tub/swim
Sex: enough said.
Journaling/Blogging---thoughts on paper and you can reflect on patterns.

7) Others:
Social support (protective on so many levels!, well, as long as its positive--we all have a friend that can be more draining than uplifting)
Humor therapy (laughter, comics, 30 min comedy on TV, a funny movie, funny Pinterest items)
Creativity (how rewarding does it feel to make something! bake, sew, craft, design, learn a new skill or just try something routine in a new way! this also has protective benefits as it can translate to creative ways to handle stress)
Art Therapy: how many of us use music to destress or process emotions? create something, draw, appreciate the arts created by someone else, go to a play (connect to others and their experience)

I've left some out, but this is just a basic list of some of the coping strategies out there. Again, so many of these are common sense, but rarely do we take the time to actually engage in these for their protective factors. Some of these also overlap incredibly easily, ie go to a comedy movie with your girlfriends. The more time you invest in your health, the better off all will be however!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Where Did the Weekend Go?

Somehow it's already Monday...and a holiday for many of you working folks as well! :)

Thursday-Sunday of this last week was mainly spent focusing on three things:

1) Granny was zipped to the ER via ambulance on Thursday morning and admitted early Thursday afternoon for stomach/intestinal issues. For a while on Thursday, we weren't sure how exactly things might turn out, but this lil lady is the poster woman for RESILIENCY and by mid-day Friday we were pretty sure she was heading out of the woods. Now as she's 101, I'm well aware that we've been incredibly blessed by the many, many years that we've had Granny continue to be present in our lives. In all honesty, I moved to Louisiana believing that she probably wouldn't be here by the time I made it back to Oregon...and she proved me wrong, and when she broke her leg on her visit to Louisiana and had to undergo surgery, I thought she'd never make a full recovery and she proved me wrong. Each day past her recovery of breaking both legs and yet returning to walk by her 100th birthday, I've just focused on being fortunate that she's still here while being mindful of the fact that she's not going to live forever. It'll be difficult to see her eventually pass but I just can't believe how fortunate we've been and I know Poppa's up there waiting for her, as in awe of her resiliency as the rest of us!

Most of Thursday and Friday I spent hanging out and sputtering with Granny at the hospital, and then I visited Saturday evening and Sunday morning until her discharge. Dad had asked me to keep him and my siblings posted on her status, so I texted out updates as they arrived, and generally spent time catching up with many of my extended relatives (and my brother) who also were frequent visitors. With all the attention and constant social visits, I told Granny not to get any ideas about being in the hospital! :) The staff all loved her and we all were incredibly impressed by the care and treatment she received at St. Vincent's---absolutely amazing! And the one piece of good news is the experience finally got Granny to agree to relocating to the local area!

2) This weekend was scheduled to be a Book Club Beach Trip weekend, but due to scheduling and illness only three of the other gals were going to be able to attend besides my cousin and I. With all the concern about Granny and other concerns going on in my cousin's life, it was difficult for the two of us to decide what to do. I felt like I needed a bit of time with my gals and ocean views in order to be restored for my own reasons, so my gal T and I drove over to the coast late Friday evening and I came back home on Saturday afternoon. While a quick trip, it was still nice to spend time with three great gals and to wake up to gorgeous ocean views! And as bonus, we didn't even have to talk about the book at all! (Plus T and I ate at the Pelican Pub, where I finally had a great tasting meal from their menu! I always feel a little let down by their food combos & I actually don't like regular beers on tap, but the vegetable sandwich was amazing!)

3) Yesterday turned into an incredibly productive Sunday:
--I went to church where a sermon was delivered that felt like God finally providing some answers to some of my needed direction: "Have you fully lived up to the skills, abilities, and talents that God gave you?" and "you're never too young or too old to do so." This is an internal battle I've always wrestled with, honestly. I've been fortunate to be blessed by God with great abilities, including intellectual capacities, but I've always wanted to just be "average" and to be able to focus on a simple life instead of potentially having to fulfill what He had granted me. I love my job, I'm reaching new goals physically, but I've been wondering if God wanted more from me....and this Sunday message sort of provided some answers that yes, yes, He probably does. So for now I'm baby stepping forward about pre-reqs and waiting to see if He opens that door and what He might eventually reveal. For the first time in my life I'm actually not overly excited about going back to school. I love to learn, I love wrangling new concepts and issues, but I've already got 3 years of undergrad and 3 years of grad school under my belt. So we'll see whether this leads into a new direction or not! It doesn't go unrecognized though that sometimes God leads us to things we might not be too excited about :) And if I'm misreading the signs, then He'll open my eyes to something else I'm sure.

--After church, I went to see Granny until we wheeled her out of the hospital about noon. Next came errands for groceries, grass seed, firelogs, & to fill the gas can to hopefully get the mower to work next time it's dry enough (ha!)....and then 2.5 hours spent in the yard: raking up the next round of leaves, including using them as cover for the raised beds. I dug out an old rosebush that had gone wild, picked up the rest of the vines I hadn't had room for in the yard debris cans, raked the ground and put down seed on two areas to attempt to reseed, and picked up & swept the patio. Tall D brought the dogs back (he'd had them for the weekend), cut the final boards needed for my other sign project, and then sat & chatted for a bit.

--My parents got new Iphones so I used one of the 5's new features and Facetimed with my dad for a bit. Late in the evening there was also an update phone call about Granny's discharge information to my aunt.

--And then an evening spent grading my online course and researching medical profession options.

A long weekend of ups and downs with just one run fit in on Friday. Hoping to get another work-out in today, finish grading my in-person classes, and then maybe get some reading for fun completed! I have a potential housemate coming to see the place this week so we'll see how that turns out---lots of unknowns still but I'm feeling like I just have to keep trusting! Oh and this morning I found half of another LARGE rat left in the garage, so those chickens might be put up on craigslist!

Hope y'all have had a great long weekend! Here's to our veterans and an entire month of thankfulness!

Den/TV Nook

I am so in love with this space...

The TV was completely moved from the old "den" in the kitchen area to this new space. It's a standard rule for me that I don't like the TV to be visible to guests when they walk into my home, as TV to me is a secondary existence while conversational seating encourages people to sit and enjoy each other. However, I recognized that I truly wasn't drawn to watching the TV in such a set-off part of the house, and so I'd hemmed and hawed over other areas to have a den/TV space. Space wise it's honestly perfect-- a little corner area that still has access to see the fireplace AND let's me see out the back and front windows all at the same time. (Plus the front living room is still the main focal point when you walk in the front door...) To say I relish sitting there on the couch to read or just enjoy life is an understatement, so the room is definitely getting used for more than just the TV anyway. :)

Obviously the biggest change to this space is that the table moved out, the couch moved up (from the sunken living room), and the TV in. A couple of the pillows on the couch were new clearance items last month and another one I made via a trip to Joanne's and the sewing machine. 

The drapes got moved from the front room (aka now the office) to this space and a new mirror was added to increase light. The large carved mask on the far right was purchased on my first road trip to San Antonio in 2010 and the zebra mask was picked up on this summer's road trip to Arizona---both have happy memories and mesh with the cultural/earthy stuff I love.

The couch I love, is extra long and thus can serve as a twin bed, and has that modern vibe only West Elm can perfect. The (Target) ottoman is also multifunctional: storage, foot propping, and also table (the top flips).

If I was to stay in the house long term, I'd like to invest in a smaller sectional for this space and move the large couch back down into the regular living room. I also am surprised I'm not hankering for an area rug here...... Again I have rediscovered that I have exactly what I NEED, these ideas are more excessive wants....sigh.

The actual TV set-up: 
I'm half inclined to eventually change to an old second-hand armoire  that can close off the TV, but for now I actually like what I've got and the fact that the hazy glass doors more or less hide everything away. The TV stand came from craigslist last spring/summer, we made the TV swap/purchase this summer (we split the cost on a new one for Tall D and I took the old one), the glass containers were extras from Mom's garage, and the framed pictures were thrifted from Goodwill. 

Definitely cozy/inviting and I forsee many evenings spent curled up in this space! LOVE!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

UPDATE: Clothes, Food, & Randoms

What I've Been Wearing:
Monday Outfit Fail :)
I put this together for a trip to campus & dinner with some of my gals....and then uh, didn't wear it. It seemed TOO young to me, too unprofessional, and it didn't seem quite "on" like I wanted. I don't know....I think I'm my biggest fashion critic. Maybe I'll try another take on it, as I'd like to figure out a way to wear that awesome summer dress in other seasons!
(Kohl's: dress, Target: belt, cardigan, leggings, boots)

What I Actually Wore Monday: 
Yep, loved much more me. And I dressed it down even more with my puffy black winter the stripes and the vest do a great job of hiding the fact that things are baggy & loose these days! Definitely will be wearing the combo pictured above again!!
(Kohl's: merlot pencil skirt, Target: sweater, Nordie's Rack: Steve Madden flats)

Tuesday Evening Lecture
Same sweater---told you I'm on a "wear it back-to-back" kick! :) I've had this outfit in mind for a few weeks now and it originally stems from an inspiration here that I found months ago.
(Thrifted: Skirt, Belt: Came with another dress)

Tonight's Lecture: 
In all actuality, I didn't wear this with the cardigan but I did sort of love this. I'm not sure that tucking shirts in is the most flattering on me, but these days I care less and less. I got the mint green lace covered shirt from Target last month and I've been in love with it....PS this outfit also made me realize that I'd look much better if I'd actually stand up straight for once.
(Target: cardigan, skirt, shirt; Nord Rack: shoes)

What I've Been Cooking:
Pasta w/ my canned homemade pasta sauce & parmesan bread crumb encrusted baked salmon (with enough left overs for another 1-2 meals)

Fried Apple Pancake Rings (Pinterest find & fed me for two breakfasts!)

Baked Apple Halves w/ Oatmeal, Cranberries, Pecans, Rum & Brown Sugar--YUM!

While I don't have a picture, I also produced a couple times last week another Tall D specialty:  Take a black bean burger and heat in the microwave for 1 minute before breaking it up into mush with your fork. Add some grated cheese & a bunch of salsa, mix, and warm for another minute. Spoon mixture into tortilla w/ sour cream & homemade guacamole---DELISH!

Thursday, my cousin & I met at McMenamins so I could savor again that amazing speciality autumn pear & walnut pizza
Saturday, T & I had happy hour (salads, crab cakes & drinks for me) at Bartini
This Monday night I met my gals for American Dream pizza

And then I've survived on my usual standbys of smoothies, omelets, and the like. For the last week, I've had a massive case of the munchies and have been wanting to eat myself out of house & home, probably due to a variety of factors: increased but avoided stress, still working out, reading students food assignments, and the fact that since the separation & start of half-marathon training I've lost a total of 15 pounds while still packing on a decent amount of lean muscle. Which all leads me to say that I'm completely jonesing to win my gal Heather at Townsend House's give away this week!! A box of The Cravory cookies is just the extra totally delicious even if unhealthy calories that this gal right here needs these days :) Me, pick me!

  • This new Iphone5 takes awesome pictures but my FAVORITE feature is that it converts talk to text for text messages, emails, notes, etc. For a verbal processor this is AMAZING! (Even if it's probably going to decrease the abilities of the next generation!) Although today I had my first kink: all morning I could only text other Iphone users rather than recipients in my contact list!
  • I've got a weird sort-of rash developing between my neck & breasts. I've been wearing perfume lately and I've been more stressed. I'm pretty sure the perfume is probably the culprit, even though I've worn off-and-on that same stuff for years. Just another indication that the chemicals in perfumes (and all fragrances) are actually NOT good for us.
  • When people don't lock their FB profiles and are easily searchable on sort of makes it easier to do checks on potential housemates.
  • The knee has been recovering and I think I've potentially figured out some of the problems. I realized that it's worse when I run with the dogs because they pull and so I land on my knee differently with them. Also I'm recognizing that my right foot kicks out to the right as I run which cause the knee to turn out--I'm trying to be mindful of keeping it straighter but it's a challenge to do so. The 5.7 mile run I did this week was the first 4+ mile run without Motrin and while it was stiff, it wasn't painful for once.
  • Today I've been thinking again about who I was four years ago. More insecure and unsure. Plus I'd learned too much about the fashion & make-up industry to be an eager participant...and now look at me with an abundance of hippy make-up items, loads of Target clothes, and rashes due to again using fragrances...sigh! :)
  • I'm half-way through the book Radical: Taking Your Faith Back From the American Dream....and I'm honestly not loving it like I thought I would nor in the way many others have responded to it. It's challenging me yes, but thus far, I'm not sure that I agree with it all...and that surprises me 100%....I've had this book on my shelf waiting to get to a place to dive into it for almost two years..I'll let you know what I think when it's wrapped up.
  • I love exam days in class when I can work on other things while ensuring students are doing alright. I can't believe it's already week 7 of the term. 
  • The leaves look so gorgeous on the ground in the backyard...that I seriously don't want to rake them! Again thanks Heather for reminding me that leaves are great winter cover in the raised beds :)
  • And....I'm again slowly taking steps to ensure that I could register to complete pre-med prereqs should I decide to try to go that route after all. IF my course rebuttal was accepted, I'd have less prereqs and issues than I thought. I get 6 free credits a term and could use financial aid to cover the rest of housing costs & tuition....I'm just battling with a) whether it's truly an option b) do I really want to potentially look at 6 more years of school at this point c) and whether I can be okay with being a student in classes with my own students in my classes......thoughts?!
  • And guilty pleasure of the week: I didn't want to drive out of the way just to go replenish my coconut-milk-based alternative but organic I purchased the preservative-laden peppermint one at the grocer down the street. I'm not gonna tastes AMAZING...and I'm relishing each cup I make this week! :)
What's new in your world?!